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Kiss bid fans farewell in 2000 and then kept touring
Kiss returns with a new album called "Sonic Boom," the band's first new studio album in 11 years, and its latest tour, "Kiss: Alive 35." - photo by Photo Contributed
It was billed as the final Kiss-off, but it turned out to be the ultimate big tease.
Nine years ago, with great fanfare, Kiss announced its farewell tour. The goal of the band, which had grossed $150 million alone with its "Alive/World Wide" reunion tour of 1996 and '97, was simple. It was time to say goodbye, after selling more than 90 million albums worldwide, setting a standard for bombastic, eye-popping concerts and influencing everyone from Garth Brooks and Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor to such musicians as Pearl Jam's Matt Cameron and Black Heart Procession's Pall.
In a 2000 San Diego Union-Tribune interview to preview Kiss' farewell show in San Diego, lead singer and rhythm guitarist Paul Stanley said: "It's out of respect for Kiss, and our fans, that we have to stop. I'm a big believer that it's better to leave early than stay too late, and to quit while you're still on top."
These are rare and noble sentiments for any rock band, let alone a money-making behemoth like Kiss, which made additional fortunes with everything from Kiss soft drinks and Kiss pinball machines to Kiss toilet paper and Kiss coffins.
Make that rare, noble and completely inaccurate, since Kiss' 2000 farewell trek has been followed by tour after tour — and, just last month, by "Sonic Boom," the band's first new studio album in 11 years (and its first to be sold exclusively at Wal-Mart stores). Its latest tour is called "Kiss: Alive 35."
Not to be blunt, but what happened to Kiss' retirement? And to Stanley's repeated declarations the band was quitting while it was still on top?
"Um, when I said that, I certainly believed it wholeheartedly," he said.
"But what I found as I was doing the farewell tour is that I didn't want to stop, I just wanted to stop playing with a couple of the guys. The reason it was a 'farewell' tour is that it was unbearable to play with some of the guys. I realized that to stop the band (for that reason) didn't make any sense."
The "couple of guys" are original Kiss drummer Peter Criss, 63, and original lead guitarist Ace Frehley, 58.
Criss left Kiss in 1980 and did not return until the Kiss reunion tour 16 years later. Frehley was replaced in 1982, after he had been in a serious car accident. He remained out of the band until the 1996 reunion with Criss, Stanley and famously long-tongued bassist Gene Simmons, who turned 60 in August.
Their post-reunion replacements in the current Kiss lineup are ex-Black Sabbath drummer Eric Singer, who first joined the band in 1993, and Tommy Thayer, who was Frehley's guitar technician for the 2000 reunion tour.
Stanley, 59, maintains that Criss (who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer) and Frehley weren't team players. The current lineup, he stated, features "four individuals working for the betterment" of the band. The fact that Singer and Thayer emulate the stage personas of Criss and Frehley by wearing the same costumes and face-paint is better for the Kiss brand, if not the band.
"The truth is the four original guys laid the foundation for this big monument that is Kiss, but that monument needed some major renovations," Stanley said.
"One thing you want to avoid is that nonsense where people in a band are siding with each other, basically to sabotage someone else's opinion. We had enough of that."
Never a favorite with critics, Kiss this fall finally made the ballot for possible induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — 11 years after the band qualified for consideration. Yet, while Stanley hails the current Kiss lineup as "unbeatable," he believes the band can continue to thrive, even if he stepped down.
"The Yankees didn't need Babe Ruth to keep winning the World Series," he said. "This band is bigger than any member and I maintain there's undoubtedly someone out there who can give this band as much, and more, than I have. So I have no qualms about leaving the spotlight to someone else, when I can't do it anymore."